The Truth About The Big `Retreat'
EACH year it seems a bit more difficult to find a new approach to the cultural and aesthetic programs Bill and I prepare for our annual "Grandfathers' Retreat" into the uninhabited townships of the northwestern Maine wilderness. Ideas run out. True, we repair thither to meditate and to consult each other about the verities and foibles that prevail. Our purpose is not primarily to bring academic niceties into a bereft, deprived, and denied area, although we know those townships need everything they can ge t. But we feel a duty, noblesse oblige, and we do not stint at the additional effort it takes to do what we can. Every spring we consider the options well, and as this will be our 30th consecutive July Convocation, we feel we have an excellent agenda.
This all began many years ago when his comely daughter persuaded my ne'er-do-well son into matrimony and Bill Dornbusch and I felt we should get acquainted. Eschewing the completely frivolous, we attempted to bring the finer things to the impoverished wilderness and have accordingly supported and inculcated the arts and sciences with amazing effect. The reason we have not had tumultuous academic acclaim is the remote situation of our (excuse the word) campus, which lies so far beyond the limits of the me dia (excuse again) that nobody knows what we do.
We are accordingly not downhearted. Instead, we pursue our purposes undaunted, and we think our program for this coming retreat outstanding, and somewhat an innovation. In the past we have uncovered prehistoric artifacts, identified a landlocked sea monster, translated some pre-Columbian verses found on birch bark in the crook of a tree, and unveiled the universal robot, which turns itself on, does everything, and then turns itself off. (It was a huge success, and prepared and served a seven-course comme ncement banquet to 500 people, meantime playing selections from Brahms on the Scottish bagpipe.)
This year we have engaged the Girl Motorcycle Zouaves Drill Team from the Misses Fahnshall Salon du Ballet at the Monson Slate Quarry Conservatory to open the ceremonies with exercises depicting the Surrender of Ratisbon. This will conclude with the lighting of an 80-foot catharine wheel on the lake shore, which will spell out Welcome - Success to the environment with Mount Katahdin in the background. The rest of the week will be given over to conferences and seminars for all ages, rich and poor, favorin g everybody and denying none.
Unlike the rest of the program, our Bastille Day exercises require no new thinking. They don't vary from year to year, and have become traditional.
Dr. Dornbusch prepares the menu and supervises the patriotic and educational program. The entire faculty of the Institute of Fine and Coarse Art participates. I begin by whistling La Marseillaise in French, and we next harmonize on Allouette in Canadian French.
This year Dr. Dornbusch will deliver his three-hour lecture on the life of Joseph Ignace Guillotin, who is said to have made the French Revolution posssible, and I am to follow him with a reading from the love letters of Madame Dufarge. Two literary offerings will follow. Prof. Karl Bahnsteig of the University of Berlin will speak on "The Paradiddles of Montparnasse," and Dr. Tewenfrow Ramsdowne of Leipzig will treat "The Taradiddles of Caucomagommick Landing." To save time, these two lectures will be de livered simultaneously.
Our Bastille Day banquet, usually well attended by two or three Appalachian Trail campers, is sumptuous, and under the sole attention of Dr. Dornbusch. Beginning with a Westfalian Kleinepilssuppe, it moves on rapidly to knockwurst, pumpernickel, sauerkraut, and the specialty - Bill's superior echtedeutscherheisskartoffelsalat. In full honor of the occasion, Bill makes French toast for dessert, using but one egg, but with plenty of sirop drable pur, which we buy at a farm in Ste. Rose du Chalet, Quebec.
Had I more time, I'd gladly recite the many further advantages Bill and I have brought to brighten life and living. Every time we've returned, so far, somebody with a puzzled look asks us, "What in the world do you two old fools find to do up in that forsaken place?" We have to tell 'em something! So we fetch culture. Bill and I, of course, do nothin'.